Hong Kong customs officers arrested three men and confiscated HKD180 million ($23 million) in black market cigarettes, reports the South China Morning Post. This marks the second-largest smuggling bust of its kind this year.
Three container trucks at two shipping yards near Tsing Yi Road, Tsing Yi, and Container Port Road South in Kwai Chung carrying three 40-foot cargo containers with 31 million suspected illegal cigarettes were seized. Three more containers in the same yards were seized, holding 33 million sticks of tobacco.
If the illegal cigarettes were legally imported, the products would have generated HKD120 million in tax revenue.
Customs has seized 640 million suspected black market cigarettes this year, an almost 50 percent increase from last year’s 427 million, according to the South China Morning Post.
Many of the brands seized were popular overseas but uncommon locally. “Following the relaxation of anti-pandemic measures and the increase in the flow of people, the market demand for illicit cigarettes has increased,” Senior Investigator Lam Wai-kit said.
An investigation is ongoing to trace the source and flow of the illegal products, according to Lam.